“I think you sometimes take for granted how even the subtle, smaller relationships have an effect on each other. And I think Hamlet’s is one in a million in the respect that every person he interacts with has an effect on him and he on them, from the gravedigger to Claudius.”
In his second interview Naeem discusses Hamlet, the important relationships in the play, rehearsing for multiple venues in one space and the highs and lows of the first few weeks.
Time: 10 minutes 57 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Phil Brooks: Welcome to the Adopt an Actor podcast series. This is the second interview with Naeem Hayat, who is playing one of the Hamlets.
How have rehearsals been going so far?
Naeem Hayat: Good. Good, really good. Mildly manic but there’s a great energy in the room because of the nature of the production, the nature of the doubling, the scenes changing and rehearsing with different actors, so it’s always fresh and it’s always new, when you rehearse a scene. It’s been going really well. So many new things come up every day in terms of character, but also problems – you know, the nature of rehearsal is problem solving – and music… Because there are so many brilliant elements to this show, it’s been really really exciting to see them all sort of slowly come together. Suddenly you start to see how, eventually, it will work. It’s just been really, sort of, exciting really and fresh – every day is fresh.
PB: Have you started doing much specific work then, looking at voice and movement?
NH: Yeah, I’ve had a few. I had a voice session with Martin [McKellen, Globe Associate, Voice], who is a genius, a lovely lovely man, just about freeing up the voice. Because of the nature of the tour, the venues will be so unpredictable – there will be big theatres and then tiny theatres and then market squares and, you know, vast open spaces – so just to make sure that everything is working to a point where you can take on the different challenges of the spaces. And silly things, that I didn’t really think about before, like temperature: how, in Saint Lucia, it will probably be quite hot, and what effect that has on the fight, for example. I’ve done a bit of Alexander [technique] and movement with Glynn [Macdonald, Globe Associate, Movement]. We went out the stage a couple of days ago and did ‘To be or not to be’ to a bunch of school kids who were on a tour, which was amazing because you sort of forget – when you’re in the rehearsal, sometimes you can forget where it’s going. It’s going to be in front of people and people are going to come and watch it, hopefully. It’s just always nice to make those connections again and it’s always just amazing to get out on that stage again because it never fails, it never fails in the magic of it, that stage, I think. It’s amazing.
PB: Is it quite tricky planning for different venues, in terms of movement and blocking? Is it quite tricky to plan for such a variety?
NH: No, I think that the way that it’s working is that there’s a set space which is marked out in the rehearsal room, so wherever we go, the play exists within that parameter, regardless of the venue. Then, I think, it’s just about when we get to a venue, saying, ‘Oh, so we have more space here than we had yesterday,’ or ‘We have less space than we had last week’ so you just sort of adapt it slightly to every place. But in terms of the rehearsals, we’re rehearsing within a set structure, which is great because then it gives you the safety of that parameter, and then you know you can play outside of it if there is the opportunity to.
PB: Looking at Hamlet, now that you’ve started to really develop and go into the character, have you found there to be many important relationships in the play to him?
NH: It’s funny. It’s funny because I think you sometimes take for granted how even the subtle, smaller relationships have an effect on each other. I think Hamlet is kind of one in a million in that respect in that every person he interacts with has an effect on him, and he has an effect on them, and there is a dynamic which is going on from the gravedigger to Claudius, you know. That’s the amazing thing about Hamlet as a part, I think. What Dominic’s been talking about is his humility and his ability to have conversation with people of all shapes and sizes, ranks of class. There are the big ones – his relationship with his mother, the relationship with Claudius, his relationship with Ophelia. Then there are more intricate ones, like the ones with Horatio and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. That’s the brilliant thing about the play, I think – everybody feeds each other. It’s just such great writing, in that it’s so true to what you would have in a building in which everybody resided or if there were travelling people, you know. When the actors come in, they change the entire atmosphere – Hamlet’s atmosphere – they change him, and they change the atmosphere around the court, and it’s just been really fun to explore how different they all are.
PB: Are there many scenes or moments that you found to be particularly significant in your interpretation of him?
NH: Well, we’ve recently been working on ‘Get thee to a nunnery’, which when I read it – and I’d seen a couple of Hamlets – and that scene can be very vicious and violent and full of angst, and it is. But also what I found really interesting is finding out why he goes to that point then, and what it is that makes him go there, because there is some element of him that dislikes himself. What I found really interesting was that there is something in it about protecting other people from him, which I’d never really sort of grasped truly before. He has other lines later on with Laertes in the grave, where he says, ‘There is something in me dangerous which let thy wisdom fear.’ So he acknowledges that he’s unstable at point, and how that affects people around him and how sensitive he is to it. I think that rears its head in the ‘Get thee to a nunnery’, because it’s not just simply angst and, you know, bile for bile’s sake. There is something which he is fighting, which I think has been very interesting discovering what it is on his journey that he is fighting every moment.
PB: Have you started to find those extra subtleties and things in the language and text?
NH: Yeah, like how he plays games with Polonius and Osric, and the court, and how he subtly uses and sometimes dispels his authority. He uses it, but also he is very quick to discard it, if he needs to. For example, with the gravedigger – very quickly, he throws away his sense of status to have a conversation, and that’s been really interesting. That’s a much more rounded person, you know, who’s able to have conversations with different people all the time, and how he approaches those conversations, and how he uses – especially with Polonius. How he picks up on what Polonius has said and can snap it back at him so quickly shows you how sort of sharp and quick and witty and funny and clever he is and that he’s not sort of drowning in his own sense of self, but he’s also very receptive to what’s going on around him. That’s all in the text, all those quick-witted replies. We did a bit of work on ‘Words, words, words’ earlier on today. That scene is just such fun to play because it’s just listening and twisting what Polonius is saying and chucking it back at him. Those games he plays with Polonius are just so much fun to play as a scene.
PB: And finally, what have been the highs and lows of the first few weeks of rehearsal?
NH: Wow. Working on those big speeches like ‘To be or not to be’, ‘Rogue and peasant slave’, because they are just so rich and you really see why those pieces of writing have lasted the test of time, because they are just so full and so human and there is so much in them to explore. And it’s just a sort of actor’s dream to get the chance to dig around those speeches and also, other parts of the production, as a whole, for example, the music – hearing the music, how it’s going to support the show and how it integrates. I always love music in theatre when it supports the story. It’s just been so much fun rehearsing and seeing all that come together. And the jig - everybody loves a good jig, and it’s great fun to do a jig. And the lows…I mean there are always things you worry about when you rehearse something, but they’re are always things you work through. For me those have been, as I think any actor would taking on Hamlet, the scope of it, hopefully remembering all the lines, which has been going well – surprisingly well, better than I thought it would at this point.
PB: Hamlet has a lot, doesn’t he?
NH: He does. He doesn’t stop talking. But it’s great. It’s been really sort of eye-opening and all-encompassing four weeks, really. It’s my favourite way to rehearse really, to just chuck yourself in and then see what comes out. Embrace it, really. And, you know, it’s a great great opportunity to do it in this setting, with the revolving cast and with the fact that it goes to every country in the world – constantly sort of being refreshed, refreshed, refreshed every day because you rehearse a scene with new people and everybody has their own rhythm and their own take on things. It just means you’re constantly, genuinely playing, rather than setting what you’re going to do, and then you do it. It’s just really fun to play – it’s been really fun these four weeks to genuinely play which takes the weight off some of it, really.
PB: Brilliant. Thank you very much.
NH: Thank you.